Hendon, playing their first home Saturday Ryman League match since 24 February and second since before Christmas, overcame Enfield 3-0 in a thoroughly nasty, spiteful match at LOOT Stadium.
Enfield, who had just about ensured their Ryman League safety with a 3-0 win over Canvey Island the previous night, were determined to get the match called off. They dug a hole on the pitch and buried a football in it. Referee Mr Mike Tingey was satisfied that the pitch, although poor, was playable - a point proved by the fact that not one player needed treatment in the 90 minutes.
Injured Hendon striker Ross Pickett helped out by filling the hole with sand. Three players made their first Ryman League Premier Division starts for the Dons, wing-back David Boateng, midfielder Dave Stewart and striker Ike Obiji, while Marvyn Watson, Dale Binns and David Adekola were rested on the bench.
A commentator's nightmare, Enfield's front two were George Gregoriou and George Georgiou, and they gave RenÃƒÂ© Street, Gary Fitzgerald and Phil Gridelet in Hendon's defence an equally uncomfortable opening 20 minutes. A cross from the right wing in the 4th minute was met by Georgiou, but Gary McCann pawed the ball around the post.
McCann was equal to Georgiou's next effort, this time in the 9th minute, and this was an even better save. In the 19th minute, however, McCann was well beaten by a low shot from the striker, who capitalised on a slip by Street. The shot was badly scuffed and rolled wide of the post.
The nastiness in the game had already resulted in cautions for both Stewart and Fitzgerald, though Mr Tingey was remarkably lenient about the retaliation that followed the two fouls. In the 34th minute, things started to go horribly wrong for Enfield. Bontcho Guentchev challenged Grant Cooper as he cleared a ball.
Cooper thought he had been fouled and told Mr Tingey exactly what he thought of the decision to award a throw-in to Hendon instead of a free-kick to him. Fellow defender Shane Chandler heard what was said and immediately ran towards the referee, who had already called Cooper towards him. Chandler's ability to get his man off failed, and Mr Tingey showed Cooper the red card.
A downpour at half-time had fans and officials concerned that the match might be abandoned, but the game continued after the break. Luckily for Hendon, the strong wind at Hendon's backs in the first half, abated slightly.
Hendon got their act together after the break and started to play some neater football. In the 56th minute, Jason Soloman worked himself an opening for a shot. His effort was almost certainly not going towards goal when Paul Adolphe intervened. He killed the ball well, turned and ran straight in on goal. Former Edgware goalkeeper Mark Whittamore came off his line to narrow the angle but ADOLPHE beat him with ease.
Almost immediately, Binns and Adekola came on for Boateng and Obiji, who had worked very hard and deserved a rest. The two fresh players brought different problems for the Enfield defence and they were frequently stretched.
In the 60th minute, Binns and Chandler clashed out on the touchline and both players were shown yellow cards. Two minutes later, Hendon extended their lead in rather fortunate circumstances. SOLOMAN again worked himself an opening and this time fired a shot that was on target. Whittamore got his hands to the shot but he succeeded only in knocking the ball in the air and it dropped behind him, bouncing over the goalline before he could retrieve it.
Fitzgerald and Soloman celebrated the goal exuberantly and the former was warned about taunting the fans who had spent the previous hour taunting him. Enfield's efforts at getting back into the game comprised of a couple of long-range efforts that whistled wide of McCann's goal.
With 15 minutes to go, Watson came on for Gridelet, whose appetite and enjoyment for tough football battles remain undiminished. Two minutes later, the best piece of skill in the game brought Hendon a third goal. Almost inevitably it came from Guentchev.
He pulled down a shot at thigh height and swivelled past a defender in the same movement. On a difficult pitch, quite how he kept his balance was amazing and a wonder to behold. It gave him a clear run at goal and as soon as Whittamore committed himself, GUENTCHEV lifted the ball past him.
On the final whistle, the whole Hendon team formed a circle around the area where Enfield had buried the ball and did a dance of joy on the spot as if exorcising ghosts. "What Enfield did was all the motivation we needed," said manager Frank Murphy after the game. "We were really up for it when they tried to get the game called off."
Coach Dave Anderson singled out Dave Stewart for special praise, "You must mention how well the boy did to day. He was so composed on the ball and he did well in the tackle too."